The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / Agriculture / Anthropology / Economics & Business


Living Under Contract
Contract Farming and Agrarian Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa
Edited by Peter D. Little and Michael J. Watts

Wracked by poverty, famine, and drought, Africa is typically represented as agriculturally stagnant, backward, and crisis-prone. Living Under Contract, however, highlights the dynamic, changing character of sub-Saharan agrarian systems by focusing on contract farming.

A relatively new and increasingly widespread way of organizing peasant agriculture, contract farming promotes production of a wide variety of crops—from flowers to cocoa, from fresh vegetables to rice—under contract to agribusinesses, exporters, and processers. The proliferation of African growers producing under contract is in fact part of broader changes in the global agro-food system.

In this examination of agricultural restructuring and its effect upon various African societies, editors Peter Little and Michael Watts bring together anthropologists, economists, geographers, political scientists, and sociologists to explore the origins, forms, and consequences of contract production in several African countries, particularly Kenya, the Gambia, Zimbabwe, and the Ivory Coast. Documenting how contract production links farmers, agribusiness, and the state, the contributors examine problematic aspects of this method of agrarian reform. Their case studies, based on long-term field work and analysis on the village and household level, chart the complex effects of contract production on the organization of work and the labor process, rural inequality, gender relations, labor markets, local accumulation strategies, and regional development.

Living Under Contract reveals that contract farming represents a distinctive form in which African growers are incorporated into national and world markets. Contract production, which has been a central feature of the agricultural landscape in the advanced capitalist states, is an emerging strategy for "capturing peasants" and for confronting the agrarian question in the late twentieth century.

“A very important contribution to the literature on agricultural restructuring. The book will be of great interest to people interested in changing agricultural trends, regardless of their geographical foci. I read the cases with tremendous interest.” —Jane Collins, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Peter D. Little is senior research associate at the Institute for Development Anthropology and associate research professor at the State University of New York–Binghamton. Among his books is The Elusive Granary: Herder, Farmer, and State in Northern Kenya. Michael Watts is professor of geography and development studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Reworking Modernity: Capitalisms and Symbolic Discontent and Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

May 1994

LC: 93-006315 HD
288 pp. 6 x 9
6 charts, 3 maps

The 1994 cloth edition of this book is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

Book icon
Paper $27.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-14064-9
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout


Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated October 7, 2010

© 2010, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System